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Power cleaning techniques using a pressure washer

Date posted: 7 April 2014

Electric and gas pressure washers can tackle most outdoor cleaning jobs, removing dirt and grime, whether you need to wash down garden decking, your house siding, boats and other vehicles, patios and walls, or even plant equipment and farm yards.

Used in the right way, they can be both productive and water-conserving. And rather than buying expensive equipment of your own, for occasional use you can easily hire a jet washer from your local tool hire centre at an affordable price.

To achieve the best results and avoid damaging the surfaces you are cleaning, you need to make sure you choose the right machine, and that you use it correctly. Electric machines are generally more suited to small, domestic jobs such as cleaning cars, patio furniture or family boats, while professional machines can reach much higher cleaning units and therefore offer a more effective way of cleaning larger areas such as house sidings, larger vehicles, back yards and so on.

Top tips for pressure washing

  • Once you have chosen the right pressure washer you will need to test the pressure setting and spray pattern on an inconspicuous area of the surface you are cleaning.
     
  • Items with a small amount of mildew can often be tackled with a pressure washer alone, but if the mildew is severe you may need to use your pressure washer in conjunction with hand tools. Pre-treat heavily mildew-stained areas with a pump garden sprayer loaded with a solution of liquid bleach, some specially-designed mildew remover (available from DIY shops) and water. Scrub the area by hand, rinse it off, and then pressure wash it to finish.
     
  • If you are washing your house siding, lay tarpaulin around the perimeter to protect shrubs and plants and catch any paint chips that are blown off. Bear in mind that houses constructed before 1977 may have paint containing lead that will need to be collected up and properly disposed of at an appropriate hazardous waste facility.
     
  • Avoid holding the pressure washer's spray wand head-on to the surface you are cleaning, because this will simply drive dirt further into the surface rather than washing it away as intended. Instead, aim to hold the wand at a 45-degree angle to the siding and at a distance that offers the most effective cleaning results without causing damage – such as gouging wood or denting vinyl or metal.
     
  • Always work over small areas at a time and begin work from the bottom up to avoid making streaks, using sweeping, overlapping strokes to wash the surface evenly. Avoid hitting any windows as the high pressure could potentially smash them. Rinse the siding or other vertical surfaces by working from the top downwards.
     
  • On houses, avoid driving water up behind the siding by keeping the spray stream level and using an extension spray wand to tackle higher spots. Be very vigilant if you use a lance extension because the “kickback” can sometimes throw it into contact with overhead power lines.

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